Is your relationship in great distress and you desire to get some relief quickly? Do you have schedules that prevent you from coming to therapy on a weekly basis? Do you live out of town and need to travel a long distance for therapy? If you do, then marathon couples therapy might be a good option for you.
Intensive couples therapy is a focused and short-term therapy that is designed to help couples resolve a current crisis or specific problem in the relationship. It generally involves 10-15 hours of intensive therapy conducted over 2 or 3 consecutive days. It is not meant to be an ongoing or long-term couples therapy.
My approach to intensive couples therapy is based on Gottman Method Couples Therapy, an evidence-based therapy supported by nearly 40 years of research with thousands of couples and a proven record of effectiveness. It is a structured and goal-oriented therapy that can help couples manage conflict better, deepen their friendship and intimacy, and create shared meaning and purpose.
What Happens In Therapy
Intensive couples therapy involves two phases:
- An assessment phase focuses on fully understanding the crisis or problem you are experiencing and how it’s impacting your relationship. Prior to the start of intensive couples therapy, you and your partner will independently complete an online relationship assessment. When you come for the first session, we will discuss the crisis or problem that brought you into therapy as well as the history of relationship up to this point. I also will meet with each of you individually so that we can discuss your personal history and background as part of the assessment. We then develop therapy goals together and begin the intervention phase.
- An intervention phase focuses on developing practical skills to help you resolve the specific crisis or problem identified during the assessment. The intervention phase does not address every skill included in the Gottman Method. Rather, interventions are selected and implemented that fit your goals and the available time. These skills are yours to keep and use at home after you have completed treatment. Like all skills, the skills you learn in treatment will require ongoing practice to build and refine.
Each day may include 2-3 hours of therapy in the morning, a break for lunch on your own, and 2-3 hours of therapy in the afternoon. The actual structure of each day will be based on the issues or problems we identified during the assessment phase, your treatment goals, the amount of time contracted for therapy, and your psychological needs.
Potential Benefits and Risks
Intensive couples therapy has been beneficial for many couples. Intensive sessions offer couples the opportunity to process their issues more thoroughly without running out of time. It often leads to a significant reduction of feelings of distress, resolution of specific problems, and a stronger relationship. Couples who have experienced both traditional couples therapy and intensive couples therapy have stated that intensive sessions help them to make progress more quickly. In many cases, it has helped couples move from thinking about ending their relationship to recommitting to each other in new ways.
As with all psychological therapies, there are some potential risks to intensive couples therapy that you need to understand. Because of the focused nature of this therapy, you and your partner may move you more quickly into problem areas. Difficulties in the relationship may become amplified, you may experience uncomfortable feelings (like sadness, guilt, anxiety, anger, loneliness, helplessness) or memories, and problems with other people important to you may occur. Furthermore, sometimes couples need time and ongoing support to repair damage in the relationships (such as a time to rebuild trust and commitment), which cannot happen with intensive couples therapy.
Despite our best efforts, therapy may not help you reach your treatment goals. Thus, guarantees cannot be made about the therapy process or outcome.
Intensive couples therapy may be contraindicated in certain situations:
- If there is active alcohol and/or drug addiction on the part of one or both partners, from either partner’s perspective.
- If there is serious violence in your relationship, threats by one or both partners that serious violence might occur, or fear of such serious violence on the part of one or both partners.
- If either partner currently has an untreated major mental illness, such as schizophrenia, recurrent psychotic depression, or bipolar/manic-depressive illness. (This does not include previous mental illness that has been successfully treated.)
- If there is an undisclosed, current affair that you are not willing to disclose (such secrets predict couples therapy failure).
- If either partner is currently experiencing suicidal or homicidal thoughts, or has a history of serious harm inflicted on himself/herself or another person.
If you have any questions about these issues, please contact me for clarification about whether intensive couples therapy is suitable for you.
When Happens After Therapy
I work carefully with couples who attend intensive couples therapy to establish a plan for ongoing support when they return home. I can prepare a written summary of the therapy process and recommendations for you as a couple, and if indicated, for each of you individually. I may recommend that intensive couples therapy be followed by ongoing couples therapy conducted closer to home. In some cases, coordination with your local therapist may be advisable for continuity of care.
Because intensive couples therapy is generally not covered by health-insurance, it is provided on a self-pay basis. You will be provided with a receipt should you decide to seek third-party reimbursement.
To begin the process of intensive couples psychotherapy, please call me at (254) 751-1550.